September is National Cholesterol Education Month
High cholesterol affects more than 95 million Americans and is a silent and major risk factor for heart disease — the leading cause of death in the United States.
High cholesterol may lead to increased cardiovascular risk if left undetected and untreated.
Cholesterol is complicated but simply put: The more bad cholesterol you have in your system could mean more cardiovascular events, like heart attack and stroke.
John Hatanelas, D.O. /Cardiologist with Monument Health, says, “It’s a build up just like the way the drain in your sink can build up grime over time. The grime, that is exactly what kind of what LDL, or bad cholesterol can do to your heart arteries.”
Genetics plays a factor in a high cholesterol diagnosis and may be challenging to get under control.
Hatanelas says, “Some people are predisposed for other reasons that we really don’t understand yet, where they take up a lot more into their heart wall arteries and deposit plaque more readily. Some people just keep getting predisposed to cardiovascular events like heart attacks and strokes and really need drug therapy outside of lifestyle changes.”
Cholesterol may be managed with an individualized treatment plan created by a doctor, including a heart-healthy diet and 40 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity exercise or activity 3-4 times per week. That goal may be easier said than done.”
“The hard part is trying to figure out how to change diet and lifestyle, because some people are 50-70 years old and eating and drinking the same way and you are trying to tell them they need to change, it’s a big deal, it impacts their quality of life. There is a lot of psychology and health coaching that is going to need to go into stuff like that but I think it can be done a lot of times with diet and lifestyle,” says Hatanelas.
More steps you can take: Hatanelas says to control the cholesterol is reduce your caloric intake by reducing portion size and refined food intake like white bread, pasts and chips.
Avoid eating between dinner and bedtime. Increase fiber intake or supplement if you must, like with Metamucil, right before dinner.
Doctors may also prescribe a statin if healthy lifestyle changes aren’t effectively getting cholesterol under control. Hatanelas says that there are new medications coming on the market soon.
Hatanelas also mentioned that if you are questioning getting on a medication for high cholesterol, ask your doctor about getting calcium score which may help determine your risk for developing heart disease.